Shoulder Lifts That Won’t Stress Your Ligaments

Ligaments are bands of fibrous tissue that hold your joints together and connect bone with cartilage. The joint capsule in your shoulder is a collection of ligaments that connects the upper bone of your arm to your shoulder socket. Besides being painful, shoulder ligament injuries can prevent you from being able to exercise or perform ordinary daily activities. Strengthening and improving flexibility of your shoulders can help reduce your risk of a painful shoulder ligament injury.

The most common causes of injury to a shoulder ligament are activities that involve repetitive, overhead motion, such as weightlifting, swimming and playing tennis. Under-developed or weak muscles and ligaments can contribute to shoulder ligament injuries. Shoulder separation or dislocation of the shoulder joint may occur from a fall that separates the ligaments that attach your shoulder joint to your collarbone. Increasing the strength of your shoulder muscles can help reduce your risk of injury to your ligaments and muscles.Stretching your shoulder muscles can help improve flexibility and range of motion to reduce risk of ligament injury. Resistance band exercises can strengthen your shoulder muscles and improve ligament strength and flexibility. Shoulder strengthening exercises can be done as often as 3 times each day. Do 12 repetitions of resistance band exercises daily to improve shoulder strength. Resistance exercises include external rotation, internal rotation, pull-backs and pull-downs.

Warm-up and stretch your muscles before lifting weights. A normal military press is performed by facing the weights of a machine and lifting the weight from behind your head. This position places your shoulder ligaments and joints at risk of injury. Make sure that you are not lifting more weight than you can handle. Face backward on the shoulder press machine to avoid the risky position. Lift the weights straight up from your shoulders.

The lateral raise exercise is a good exercise to improve shoulder strength without stressing your shoulder ligaments. Performing the lateral raise with your palms pointed toward the floor can stress your shoulder ligaments and muscles. Use a neutral grip with your thumbs pointed toward the ceiling when doing lateral raise exercises to reduce stress on your shoulder joints and ligaments.


Exercises for Strong, Sculpted Legs

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Regular exercise, like walking and bicycling, can help keep your legs strong and toned. Exercise helps reduce the chance of diseases like osteoartiritis, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Calf raises and leg lifts focus on the lower leg by stretching and strengthening the muscles on the back of your leg below the knee. Strong leg muscles stabilize and protect your knee and ankle joints, which reduces the likelihood of injury and joint pain. Add some calf exercises to your regular exercise routine for strong lower legs. 
Front leg lifts target the muscles that support and stabilize the knee joint. Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out. Lean back on your forearms in a reclining position. Bend your left knee and plant your left foot flat on the floor. Keep your right leg straight with your toes pointed toward the ceiling. Slowly lift your right leg off the floor toward the ceiling. Lift until your leg is about 6 inches off the floor. Hold the lift for 5 seconds and then lower your leg back to the floor. Repeat 10 times with each leg. 
Calf raises strengthen the long muscle on the back of your leg and strengthen the ankle joint. Stand on the balls of your feet on the edge of a stair step or a step-up exercise stool. Allow your heels to hang off the back of the stair. Hold onto the wall or stair rail for support to maintain your balance if necessary. Allow both heels to drop slightly below the level of the stair or stool. Hold the stretch for 2 seconds and then push your body up on the balls of your feet until your heels are above the level of the step. Hold of 2 seconds and return to the start position. Repeat 10 raises, up and then down. 

Exercise to Strengthen Hip Joints

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Hip joint pain can interfere with almost every activity. Sitting down, standing up, climbing stairs, bending and walking require flexible hip joints. You can keep your hip joints strong and flexible by riding a bicycle, swimming and walking regularly. Make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet to avoid bone loss and weak joints, which can result in injury. There are some easy-to-do exercises that you can do every day to help strengthen your hips, pelvic area, legs and lower back. 
The pelvic tilt is a great exercise to strengthen your pelvic muscles, strengthen your spine and your hips. Lie on your back on the floor and bend your knees. Place your feet flat on the floor about hip-width apart. Place your palms on the floor beside your hips. Tighten your abdominal muscles and move your lower back downward until it touches the floor. Hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds and then relax. Repeat this exercise for 10 repetitions.
Hip flexes will stretch the muscles of your hips and improve joint flexibility. Stand up straight. Drop your shoulders and look straight ahead. Hold onto a sturdy chair or place your palm on the wall if you need help balancing on one foot. Lift your left leg off the floor and bend your knee until your thigh is parallel to the floor and your leg makes a 90 degree angle. Hold this position for 10 seconds and then slowly lower your leg back to the floor. Repeat this exercise 10 times for each leg. 

Leg lifts strengthen your hip joint as well as the muscles of your legs and hips. Lie on your left side. Bend your left leg in a 45 degree angle. Stretch your left leg out. Support your upper body on your forearm with your elbow below your shoulder. Tighten your abdominal muscles and then lift your left leg 12 to 24 inches toward the ceiling. Hold the position for 5 seconds and then slowly lower  your leg to the start position. Do 10 repetitions. Repeat this exercise with the other leg. 

Water Exercise

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Swimming is one of the most effective whole body exercises you can do. You don’t have to be an expert swimmer or even know how to swim to take advantage of exercising in water. Exercise in a pool can provide a hardcore aerobic workout for your whole body, including your heart and lungs. The water will support your body, take pressure off your joints and muscles while providing resistance to help strengthen  your muscles. If you are not a strong swimmer or you don’t know how to swim, wear a flotation device and make sure the lifeguard at the pool knows you do not know how to swim. Gyms that have a pool and organizations like the YMCA frequently offer water aerobics and water exercise classes for groups if you aren’t sure how to begin or don’t want to invest in water weights. Membership fees for community organizations are usually reasonable. Gym prices vary, but most offer programs at a reasonable cost. 
The easiest water exercise to do is to walk around in the pool. Enter the pool and walk to a point where the water reaches your waist. Walk back and forth across the pool in the waist-deep water to give your legs a good workout. Swing your arms naturally as you would when walking on land. Walk using a normal gait. Avoid pushing off with your toes and don’t lean forward.  Squeezing your abdominal muscles while walking will also give your abs a good isometric workout and help keep you from leaning forward. Walk across the shallow water 15 to 20 times. When  you can do 20 laps in the shallow water without becoming exhausted, try increasing the number of laps or walking in deeper water, up to your chest. 
Incorporate some weight lifting into your water exercise by using water weights. Water weights are like foam dumbbells. They create a lot of resistance in the water. Hold the water weights in your hands with your palms facing up and raise the weights up to the level of the water to exercise your biceps. Hold the weights with your palms facing the bottom of the pool and push the weights through the water toward your back to work your triceps. Try to perform 15 to 20 each of the biceps and triceps curls or until you are tired.  
Finish your water exercise with a few laps of the pool. Even if you don’t know how to swim, you should be able to do a few laps while wearing a flotation vest. If you are uncomfortable in deep water, swim back and forth across the pool in water no deeper than your waist. 

Foods That Promote Joint Health

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Joints can become weak and prone to injury due to aging, inactivity, disease or poor nutrition. Joint health can be improved and maintained by eating a healthy diet that includes nutrients that promote joint health. Free radicals in the body can attack joints, tendons and cartilage where they can cause pain and inflammation. Free radicals are toxins produced by the natural metabolic activity (oxidation) of the cells. Foods that contain antioxidants are critical to help rid the body of free radicals by combining with the toxins and helping to remove them from cells. Vitamin C is a good antioxidant. Foods that are rich in vitamins A, E and the nutrient selenium also help to remove free radicals from the body and promote overall health. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamin C. Oranges, pineapple, grapefruit, broccoli, asparagusm papaya, mangoes, raspberries and red bell peppers are rich in many vitamins and minerals, especially vitamins C and A. Vitamin E is also a good antioxidant nutrient. Whole grains and cereals are rich in vitamin E.
Foods that are rich in healthy fats, such as salmon, contain omega-3 fatty acids that help to promote joint health. Omega-3 fatty acids promote joint health because of their anti-inflammatory properties. People with arthritis can eat more foods containing these healthy fats or take an omega-3 fatty acid dietary supplement if their doctor recommends it. Tuna, sardines and other ocean fish are healthy sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Shellfish and shrimp also contain a substance called glucosamine, which improves joint health. Nuts like almonds, fresh green vegetables, fruits, grains and seeds, like pumpkin and sunflower seeds, also contain omega-3 fatty acids. 
Increase the amount of water you drink to help your body rid itself of toxins and free radicals. Everyone should drink at least 8 glasses of water every day to maintain kidney and bladder health and to stay properly hydrated. In addition to increasing your water consumption and eating healthy foods, try to exercise at least 15 to 30 minutes every other day. Thirty minutes every day is better if you can manage.

Avoid Knee Injury

Photo Credit: Nevit Dilmen CC-BY-SA-3.0  2010

Your knees take a pounding every day. Every step you take, climbing stairs, walking through the grocery store, pressing the gas and brake pedal in your car, and standing up and sitting down all require movement of your knee joints. Running, jogging and jumping are high-impact activities that can cause injury if your knee muscles weak or the joint not as flexible as it should be. You can avoid knee injury by strengthening your knee muscles with exercise and taking a few common sense precautions. 
Take care of your joints by drinking plenty of water, eating healthy foods and keeping your weight under control. Extra pounds can take a toll on your knee joints. Losing weight can  help you avoid acute injury and long-term chronic pain due to deterioration of the joint. Extra stress is placed on the knee joint, muscles and tendons with every step when you are overweight. Regular exercise, rest, hydration and a healthy diet can help you lose weight and save knees.  
Most knee injuries can be attributed to weak muscles in the leg. Exercises that strengthen the hamstrings and quadriceps muscles can help prevent knee injury and pain. Balance exercises also help promote knee health. Use a balance board to exercise and strengthen the leg muscles. Simple exercises that you can do just about anywhere, any time include standing on one leg for 60 seconds, standing on your toes, shifting your weight to your heels for 30 seconds or more and swimming. Swimming is an excellent whole body aerobic workout. 
If you are already experiencing knee pain, stiffness or weakness, see your doctor to rule out injury or a condition, such as gout or osteoarthritis. Consult a personal fitness trainer to help you develop an exercise and diet program to improve your knee health. 

Does Joint Popping Cause Arthritis?

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Some people are in the habit of popping their knuckles and other joints. The joints make a “pop” sound when pulled or pressed due to a build up of tiny amounts of nitrogen gas in the fluid surrounding the joint. Pressing or pulling on the joint can force the gas out of the joint, which causes the joint to “pop.” You’ve probably heard that popping your knuckles or other joints can cause arthritis. There is no evidence to support a causal connection between joint popping and arthritis. Generally, cracking your knuckles and popping other joints is not harmful. The knees, elbows, ankles or back may “pop” during exercise. This is normal and not cause for alarm, unless the pop is followed by pain, swelling or discoloration. Seek medical attention if you experience pain following a joint pop. Pain may be an indication of an injury or joint condition, such as arthritis, and should be treated by a physician. Stretching exercises can help reduce joint popping during exercise. It is also important for those suffering from arthritis to remain active and continue to exercise to improve their range of motion and flexibility. 
Exercises that focus on stretching and balance include yoga, Pilates and tai chi. See your doctor before beginning an exercise program. A personal fitness trainer can help you design a program to keep your joints flexible and reduce the pain and swelling of arthritis. Strengthening the muscles can also help relieve joint pain and swelling due to arthritis. 
Isometric exercises increase the strength of the muscles without moving the joints. Isometric strength exercises include hand presses, wall presses, abdominal squeezes and muscles flexing. To do hand presses, place your palms together and press your hands together in a “prayer” position in the middle of your chest. Keep your elbows down and press your palms together. Hold the press for about 10 to 20 seconds and relax. Repeat this exercise 5 times and increase the number of repetitions as your arm strength increases. Wall presses are performed by standing about 1 foot from a wall and pressing your palms against the wall. Gently lean in toward the wall and support the weight of your body with your arms. Hold the position for 10 seconds and then relax. Repeat 5 times. Increase the number of repetitions as you become stronger. You can strengthen the leg muscles by standing on one leg for 30 seconds. Repeat with the other side. Increase the length of time you stand on one leg as you become stronger. 

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